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Rising damp and home insurance cover

October 25, 2011

Type 2 Rising Damp in wall

The issue of “rising damp” and home insurance is something I stumbled upon quite recently and quite honestly hadn’t given it much attention.

I want, very briefly, to share with you my thoughts. Please bear with me; this could save you a lot of money. This post is slightly longer than my usual, at 636 words.

Part 1 identifies the weakness in the usual definition of “rising damp”, while Part 2 exposes the risk of using the term in the context of home insurance.

Part 1 – Defining “rising damp”

“Rising damp” is commonly defined as the capillary migration of moisture from the soil up a porous wall.

However, this is a slightly incomplete definition because crucially, it doesn’t actually define or differentiate the route the moisture takes as it attempts to rise above the level of the damp proof course (DPC) buried within the wall.

The crucial question remains???

Does the moisture pass straight through the DPC, or does it pass around it. This question lies at the heart of my dislike of the term “rising damp”. It’s a “catchy” term for a complex problem.

To help differentiate these two types of “rising damp”, I think it’s helpful to split “rising damp” into two groups. The first, where the water actually penetrates a defective DPC could  be called Type 1 Rising Damp; while the second, where the water by-passes the impermeable DPC could be called Type 2 Rising Damp.

This clarification is important as it helps with the next part of the discussion.

—————-

Part 2 – Rising damp and home insurance

It’s common practice amongst insurance companies not to insure for “rising damp”. This is because the insurance industry considers “rising damp” to be wholly and exclusively associated with the gradual breakdown of a DPC (e.g. Type 1 Rising Damp). This type of “rising damp” should be excluded from home insurance cover.

HOWEVER, what happens if you have Type 2 Rising Damp, it’s still “rising damp” (if you adhere to the strict definition) but not as a result of a defective DPC. Should this type of “rising damp” be covered under home insurance and how do you differentiate it from Type 1 “Rising Damp”?

The insurance industry may therefore consider (and possibly prefer) “rising damp” to cover all types of base of wall dampness (Type 1 and Type 2), since this would greatly reduce claims. However, this approach completely ignores the fact that Type 2 “Rising Damp” has nothing whatsoever to do with a defective damp proof course.

I think the insurance industry needs to re-visit its use of the term “rising damp” in policy documents, because the true definition makes no mention of a defective DPC. This is merely the insurance industry’s narrow interpretation of the term.

It could be that insurance companies are quietly content with the status quo, relying on people’s ignorance to avoid pay-outs for Type 2 “Rising Damp” as well? Surely not!!

However, I note that one large insurance company has even tried “upping” the threat that “rising damp” poses by stating on their website that… “rising damp is the most common form of dampness”.  Despite this being not true, could this be an attempt by the insurance industry to “manage expectations”?

Conclusion

The lesson to this discussion is that just because your wall has “rising damp”, it doesn’t mean you have Type 1 Rising Damp which would be excluded from Home Insurance. It may be Type 2 “Rising Damp” which could be covered.

However, whatever the type of “rsing damp”, if your wall is wet you need to find out why it’s wet? Just being told your wall has “rising damp” is completely meaningless. See Rising Damp is not a source of dampness.

More useful information can be found in BRE 245 (2007 edition):  Rising Damp in Walls – Diagnosis and treatment. (See BRE Books).

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From → 3. Dampness

7 Comments
  1. Antonello George permalink

    Hi , I’m glad I saw this on your blog , (which I have been reading now for half of the year. It has confirmed a lot of things for me.) I am in the exact position as what you have describe.
    Water is coming through brickwork under doc because of high ground level leaving sub soil damp and musty!
    Could I ask, what level I should get the ground level reduced to, same level as sub floor soil level or just a bit below??
    Because concrete has been put down as a pathway around the whole side and back of house in the past, it will need that breaking out and the concrete plinth around the building chopped off bricks repaired and re pointed the a nhl lime rendered plinth back to cover damage. Could this be an insurance job?? As I havnt really got the money and time off to do this myself which I’m capable of. Thanks for your time if you read this and I’m looking forward to your reply as this will really help me out a lot , due to living in a musty flat this winter I can’t wait to get this job done and of insurance would be a good route all the better
    Thanks
    Anton

    • Thanks for the message.

      The ground levels needs to be lowered by 150mm below the damp proof course.

      Raised ground levels are often caused by patios being laid over existing patios. This raised the ground level and greatly increases the risk of internal dampness.

      Does this help?

      • Antonello George permalink

        Great cheers this is what I’ll need to get done. Should I attempt to go through insurance with this type of problem ?? Thanks again for the quick reply

      • It’s not an insurable event. So you would have to pay for lowering the ground levels yourself.

        Regards

  2. whoah this blog is excellent i like reading your articles. Keep up the good work! You already know, a lot of persons are hunting around for this information, you could help them greatly.

  3. tayiba permalink

    I have insurance through my house was fully insured but did not realise that damp is not included. I dicoved dame in the wall behind by radiator. I appears to be deep within the wall. Why would my insurer not cover this type of damp and what can i do?

    • Sorry to hear about the problem behind the radiator.

      I think the reason why the insurance company doesn’t want to insurance against dampness is because it is often due to minor issues such as a lack of maintenance, inappropriate alterations to the house and the installation of double glazing. They would prefer dampness issues be covered by long term guarantees from damp companies or be rectified by damp proofing companies.

      Now with regards your damp issue. The word that makes alarm bells ring for me is the word “radiator”. The radiator could be dragging moisture into the property from outside through a process called wicking. A bit like a wick of a paraffin lamp drags paraffin up the wick to the flame.

      Have a look on the other side of the wall to see if there is an obvious source of moisture. If the wall is an external wall then there may be surface water issues or a blocked gulley adjacent. The source of moisture doesn’t have to be much to make the inside of the wall (with the help of a nice hot radiator) very damp indeed. If you place a reflecting board down between the radiator and the damp wall the problem should reduce significantly.

      Does this help?

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